Book Review: The Broken Girls
By Alexis Mercer
I’m starting to wonder if my Book Club friends have gathered together and come up with a list of books meant only to push my limits of comfort. I can see this month’s book choice going something like this in Amanda’s brain:
"Hmmm. What’s an incredibly creepy storyline that is just enough realistic, not ridiculously far-fetched, and so well-written that it will cross the line of comfort for everyone...Oh, and have a 30-something year old main character who is a journalist so that it’s also incredibly relatable to especially Alexis which makes her even more creeped out?"
She nailed it.
I started reading The Broken Girls and right away knew this would not be a crawl-into-bed-to-fall-asleep-novel. Nope. This would be a middle-of-a-sunny-day-when-many-other-people-are-around-novel. As a result, it took me a while to get through, since most of my reading is done at night.
However realistically spooky the book may have been, it was extremely well-written. It isn’t often I read a ghost story I consider to be a literary phenomenon. (FINE, I don’t read ghost stories at all - but part of the reason why is because I never found them well-written when I read them as a teenager.) Simone St. James’s flow and story-telling ability is beautiful.
I’m also aware that I probably like this ghost story because there are other aspects to the plot - a cold-case murder, a relationship between a police officer and the main character, families with deep ties to their community. Many portions of St. James’s novel have nothing to do with a ghost at all.
To summarize - Fiona Sheridan is the only remaining daughter of Malcolm Sheridan, a legendary journalist from the town of Barrons, Vermont. Her sister, Deb, was murdered at the age of 20 by her then boyfriend, Tim Christopher, the son of wealthy landowners in their town. The body was found on the field of the abandoned, clod down Idlewild, a former school for troubled girls in the late 40s and early 50s.
The reader concurrently hears the story of four girls who were roommates at Idlewild as young teenagers: their individual stories of why they ended up at this dreadful boarding school and the stories of what happened while there. One of which includes the horror of the ghost, Mary Hand, who was said to have buried her illegitimate baby in the garden of the school.
These two separate pieces of the book eventually come crashing together in a rather unexpected way, and though I couldn’t have predicted the ending, now that I read it, I can’t imagine it ending any other way.
I was so pleasantly surprised by this book club pick. Never, ever would I have chosen it myself based on the cover. It’s yet one more reason why I’m so thankful to have found a group of women to share literature with - even if they do secretly meet to create plots against my book reading desires.
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